Paris is always so attractive and magic, even when it’s raining. With so many activities and so many amazing places to visit together with your family, the French capital offers its visitors numerous wonderful possibilities, despite the stormy weather. So let’s go singing in the rain and don’t even think about shortening your stay because of the weather!
I don’t know about you, but whenever it rains on vacation, I just want to discover hidden places, lovely shops, and things to do that allow me to make the most of my vacation with my family, without hearing a single complaint about the weather. Here are a few tried and true suggestions, and there’s something for everyone on this list. Because in Paris, you’ll never run out of great ideas and things to do!
There are a large number of great tree parks where you can relax with your family between two visits. However, you surely don’t want to be roaming around the Luxembourg or Tuileries garden when it’s raining out! What better way to chase away the bad weather gloom than to imerse yourself in a gentle tropical ambiance?
I suggest discovering Paris’s magnificent greenhouses. Surrounded by nature, away from the rain, you can admire exotic plants, smell the intoxicating scent of flowers, and introduce your children to faraway lands.
The large greenhouses at the Jardin des Plantes are definitely the most well-known. Considered as historic monument, the greenhouses have retained their metalic structure from over a century ago. Thanks to the interactive and educational experience, your children and you won’t miss any of the history of the plants or where they’re from.
A few meters from the Jardin des Plantes greenhouses, there’s also the National Museum of Natural History that houses the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, an essential family adventure in the capital. There you can find 7,000 species even more lifelike than reality and incredibly impressive. The history of evolution is put into images along the upper balcony thanks to a well-designed educational experience. A group rate is available for families.
A little further from the center of Paris, there’s the Auteuil greenhouses, located in the heart of the bois de Boulogne. Created in 1761 under Louis XV, these greenhouses are designed around a vast French style lawn. The 5 magnificent 19th century style greenhouses host a large collection of remarkable trees and rare plants. A palm house and an aviary complete the collection. Guided visits are organized at certain times.
And don’t miss the famous butterfly greenhouse at the Vincennes floral park and its magnificent closed garden transformed in aviary.
Once the weather becomes stormy, hotel choice becomes even more important. I recommend a typical french style accommodation that has mastered the art of French hospitality. Under the watchful eye of Diderot, whose statue is located just a few steps away, the Hotel Madison has an exceptional location, just across from the church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres.
This elegant house welcomes families and offers parents all that they need to ensure a great family vacation: connecting rooms, complimentary breakfast for younger guests, available baby kit, bathrobes and slippers designed for children and a surprise waiting for them in their room when they arrive…
The vast majority of Paris’s covered passages were built during the second half of the 19th century. Parisians happily used these paths for elegant walks through the heart of Paris during storms. These sheltered galeries sneak through the hearts of the buildings to connect the roads. Numerous lovely stores, restaurants, and theaters were constructed in the galeries. Out of the 150 that were built in the beginning, only around 30 remain. While the atmosphere and architecture of these galleries are already remarkable enough, they also possess amazingly worked pavement and windows.
Among them, there’s the Galerie Vivienne, located just a little way away from the Palais Royal (where you can also take shelter from the rain in the galeries that surround the square courtyard where the Burren Columns are). Considered as historic monument, it has 176 meters of ornate mosaic flooring from the time period. In this gallery, you’ll discover one of the most secret and beautiful toy stores in Paris, which is sure to be the cherry on top for the younger travellers: the store Si tu veux. It will surely return you to your childhood! The moment the doors open, you will be flooded with memories from childhood. The toys are all made out of high-quality material and are often inspired by the famous Montessori education method. From wooden tea sets, dolls with angelic smiles, and even elegant costumes, you can find everything you need to have fun as a family!
For a gourmand break, right at the entrance of the passage, near the rue Vivienne, there is a high-quality contemporary trattoria. It’s superbly decorated, echoing the style of the neighboring richelieu library. Between concrete columns and massive stone walls sit elegant tables, blue velvet seats, and mirrored ceilings. A little further on, you can get a table at Daroco, where they serve amazing Burrata and delicious pasta.
Continue along your way to the passage des panoramas, one of the most iconic covered passages in Paris. It was the first one built in Paris, between the Bourse and the grands boulevards. A great spot for those into stamps, it has retained all its seal from yesteryear. The Café Stern, which just recently opened, is worth taking a look at too. In a deeply contemporary project, Philippe Starck found a way to inject a real soul into this historic location. They’re open for refined breakfasts, small breaks during the day around Italian coffee and delicious sweets, as well as dinner.
Finally, in the Montorgueil neighborhood, the Grand-Cerf covered passage is certainly the most spectacular one in Paris. Higher than all the rest, bathed in light, you can happily stroll through the gallery and discover its lovely stores.
My children have one constant custom when it rains on the weekend in Paris: go discover its amazing bookstores. Our favorite: the charming anglo-american store Shakespeare & Co in the 5th arrondissement, where you can sit and enjoy a coffee or a tea with a little snack in the middle of all the beautiful books. It’s certainly one of the most picturesque bookstores in the city.
Amongst the classics, we must mention the WHSmith bookstore, located under the arches along the Rue de Rivoli. Along with a magnificent display of English snacks, there is also a tearoom designed with the London tea house Twinings. Located on the 2nd floor, just across from the Tuileries garden, you can get a 100% British breakfast.
I can’t resist also recommending a visit to the lovely Librairie Gourmande along the Rue Montmartre. It’s not a place that you would really consider at first sight, but it is definitely worth the stop. In addition to being the best stocked in Paris, and maybe even in all of France, when it comes to cook books, there is also a great section for children’s books. In command for 10 years now, Deborah Dupont watches carefully over this remarkable and complete selection of works.
I can imagine your children’s grimaces when you tell them you’re going to a museum… So it’s up to you to do what you can to introduce your children to culture and history!
The most unusual and interesting museum for younger travelers is the Musée des Arts Forains. Along with its beautiful 100-year-old wooden carousels, the musuem houses an amazing collection of fairground attractions from the beginning of the 20th century. Located in an old wine storage building from the time of Gustave Eiffel in the Bercy neighborhood in the 12th arrondissement, the museum also houses a beautiful closet of music hall costumes and accessories.
Change up the scenery and ambiance with the Musée de la préfecture de police. For those who are fans of police and crime shows, this is the perfect place! The museum retraces the history of criminal science from the 17th century, including the creation of the position of Prefect of Police by Napoleon in 1800 until the occupation. They also have the prison records where you can find names of famous prisonners, such as Ravaillac, who assassinated Henry the Fourth in 1610, or the famous serial killer Landru.
The Musée de la magie has also earned a spot in the heart of the Marais. Objects, accessories, and posters that have made magical history are displayed to help explain more about the biggest illusions that marked the history of this discipline. Of course, performances occur throughout the visit.
Another unmissable museum: the Musée des arts et métiers, the oldest science museum in all of Europe. The Arts and Trade Institution, founded in 1794 by Bishop Henri Grégoire, was originally created solely to advance scientific techniques. Today, this state musem is completely dedicated to scientific technology.
When you exit the museum, I recommend taking a quick detour through the passage de l’ancre, a small private alley brimming with greenery, where you find Peps, the workshop of the last umbrella repair man in the city. You can also buy umbrellas and canes there.
For the more adventurous families, the Catacombes of Paris offer an underground walk that’s away from the rain. Dark passageways, labyrinths, piles of bones and strange engravings, welcome to the bowels of Paris!
If, despite all these recommendations, you still find yourself short on ideas of what to do as a family, I recommend looking at the customized agenda options on the site sortiraparis.com or this other Little Guest article compiling our tips for a chic and family weekend in Paris!
Catherine, married, Justine’s mom, from Paris